Archives for posts with tag: Georgia Tech

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The final week of February brings two phrases back to the college basketball scene:  “seeding line” and “the bubble”.  Even with their 79-72 loss at Ohio State Sunday, Maryland is competing for a top-three seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament.  Why is three a magic number?  Because as a top-four seed they’d be protected and sent closer to the Terps natural region (likely New York City and Madison Square Garden for the East Regional), but they wouldn’t have to face the region’s top seed until the round of eight.  Right now the Terps (22-5, 12-4 Big Ten) are projected to be a No. 2 seed by the “Bracketologists”; with regions varying from South (ESPN), Midwest (CBS Sports), East (USA Today), and Midwest (NBC Sports).  But three of the four have Maryland going to Greensboro (USA Today the outlier with Tampa as their first weekend destination) to begin the tournament.  Virginia (19-7, 11-5 ACC) is a potential second-round foe for the Terps according to ESPN and CBS, as the Cavaliers are a No. 7 and No. 10 seed in those models (UVa is No. 9 seed according to USA Today and NBC).  On the other side of the seeding coin is the bubble:  right now Georgetown (15-12, 5-9 Big East) is squarely on the underbelly thanks to consecutive losses with USA Today listing the Hoyas as one of the “first four teams out” while ESPN and CBS have them in the “next four out”.  Richmond (20-7, 10-4 Atlantic 10) is also on the bubble, with CBS having the Spiders playing in the First Four while the other three models have them in the “first four out”.  Meaning Coach Chris Mooney’s team can ill afford another misstep between now and the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Alma Mater Update: SU rallied to beat Georgia Tech Saturday, which returns the Orange to 8-8 in a soft ACC and returns them to three games over .500 with four dates remaining.  Three are on the road and the fourth is against a North Carolina team that can’t be this bad…right?  Actually, all four schools are currently under .500 in league play so an 18-win campaign isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  Sound familiar?  Since Syracuse’s first winter in the ACC, they’ve finished the regular season with either 18 (twice) or 19 wins (three times).  Not ideal for a program that was accustomed to winning a lot over a long time.  Buddy Watch: the recent rough patch (38 points over his last four games) drops the sophomore’s average to 15.5 points per game, putting him on a pace of 481 for the regular season which would have this No. 35 at 698 for his career entering the ACC Tournament. Or 47 points shy of his father.

Wow of the Week: defending National Champion Virginia owns the longest winning streak in the ACC; four straight victories have moved the Cavaliers off of the bubble and into the NCAA field.  Coach Tony Bennett’s grinders actually enjoyed a breather when they beat Boston College; the 78-65 triumph was just their second double-digit win since January 1.  While offense can leave for the NBA early (Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome) but the rock that this program has been built upon is defense; and the Cavaliers lead the NCAA in scoring defense while ranking second in defensive field goal percentage.  But the schedule ratchets up over the final two weeks with a pair of road games along with home matchups against teams currently in the top ten.

Player Spotlight:  Maryland sophomore Aaron Wiggins led the Terps with 20 points in Sunday’s loss at Ohio State while making 6 of 13 from three-point range.  In his five other games this month, the guard is averaging seven points with four boards and two assists while shooting 36% and 5-23 from outside the arc.  For the Terrapins to shine in March and get to Saturday’s Semifinals in the Big Ten Tournament and the second week of the NCAA’s, they need more than Jalen Smith inside and Anthony Cowan outside.  With Eric Ayala (26% from three after making 41% as a freshman) still looking for his shot, that may fall to Wiggins in the coming weeks.

League Look:  the Big Ten has four schools ranked in the Top 25 with six others likely making the tournament field if today was Selection Sunday (and obviously it is not, but still…).  Two more are on the bubble, with Minnesota and Purdue needing to microwave their way down the stretch to get into the postseason conversation.  While Maryland owns a two game cushion with four to play, there’s a five way tie for second place at 10-6 and then one game separates seventh from tenth place.  Talk about fluid standings.

Ballot Battles:  Saturday saw three of the top four teams in the nation tumble; and that bled over to Sunday when then-No. 7 Maryland fell at Ohio State.  Kansas is the new No. 1 thanks to its victory at previously top-ranked Baylor.  Small school shout-outs this week welcome Liberty (26-3) to the party, with Stephen F. Austin, East Tennessee State, and Northern Iowa remaining in the mix.  Toughest decision was how far to drop the Terps–I slid them three spots after the defeat, behind Duke and San Diego State to the dismay of a few.  After last Monday when my Washington Post Sunday Magazine Crossword became twitter fodder, I’m happy to be roasted by fans from all offended schools this week.

 

Starting Five:

Wednesday- Virginia at Virginia Tech.  The Cavaliers took the January meeting by 26, and the Hokies have lost seven of eight to fall out of NCAA contention.  Freshman Landers Nolley II has officially hit the wall, also known as that time of the season when first-year players have logged more minutes and games than they did during their high school career.  The team’s leading scorer is averaging 9.3 points with 8 rebounds over his last three games while shooting 18% from the field and 1-for-17 from three point range.  He’s going to find scoring against the Cavaliers even more difficult.

Also Wednesday- No. 9 Maryland at Minnesota. Beware late February, Terrapin Nation.  How many times have we seen a highly-regarded Terps team go on the road and get shocked in Lincoln, State College, or Minneapolis?  The Golden Gophers may have lost five of seven and rank third-worst in the Big Ten in shooting, but still boast a big man to be reckoned with. Daniel Oturu’s 11.4 rebounds per game leads the conference and his 19.7 points per game is second-best behind Luka Garza. Jalen Smith, just a few days removed from dealing with Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson, will have his hands full once again.

Also Wednesday- American vs. Lafayette.  The Eagles own a one-game lead in the race for third place in the Patriot League, but the Leopards currently own the tiebreaker thanks to their 12-point win in Easton at the beginning of the month.  It was a day where AU shot 15% from three-point range and couldn’t contain Justin Jaworski (32 points on 11-17 shooting).  Sa’eed Nelson is two points away from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer; he’ll need help from his supporting cast after they shot 14-42 (33%) in Sunday’s loss at Boston University.

Saturday- George Washington at VCU.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Rams, who have lost four straight and five of six to light a match to their at-large hopes.  The coveted double-bye is also almost gone for Mike Rhoades team.  GW has won two of three to position itself away from the A-10’s dreaded first round for the first time in three years.

Sunday- Georgetown vs Xavier. Schools with 8-10 conference records have made the NCAA Tournament before, but four games under .500 is almost the at-large kiss of death.  That’s where the Hoyas are on track to land, unless they get things in gear quickly.  The Musketeers are on the top half of most bubbles.  They also lead the Big East in rebounding margin and defending the three; the Hoyas lead the conference in crucial injuries with Mac McClung (eight minutes played this month due to a foot injury) and Omer Yurtseven (five points and eight rebounds in the loss at DePaul after missing the previous two games with a sprained ankle) question marks moving forward.

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Thursday night football is a sore spot for me nowadays.  The NFL version resembles supermarket fish sticks cooked in the oven from the burned exterior/frozen middle standpoint:  teams are playing on short rest, meaning they’re overworked (four days after playing in a car collision-type sport) and underprepared (three actual days to implement a gameplan in today’s three dimensional chess-like NFL?).  You’re going to get a couple of gems here and there (Rams-Minnesota last month) but more often than not the consumer will be treated to games where you spend half the night wishing you were watching “Night Court”, “Dear John” or “Suddenly Susan”.

However, college football on a Thursday night has far from that feel.  For the fan, the most recent Power Five Conference game was the late-Saturday Pac-12 extravaganza, meaning you’ve had four full days to recharge your college gridiron batteries.  As opposed to the NFL’s tight turnaround where it feels like you’re being force-fed shrimp cocktail fifteen minutes after enjoying one of those molten chocolate cakes (with Dulce De Leche ice cream, of course).  For the teams, the college game also sets up its Thursday night schedule smartly:  the two teams playing are coming off a bye week more often than not (and if they aren’t, it’s on four days rest instead of the three in the NFL-and that one day is one huge difference).  Coming off a bye, both teams are fully recovered as well as thoroughly prepared for their opponent.  Since the NFL has insisted on forcing the Thursday night package upon us, can’t they at least do right by the teams involved as well as the consumers who just want quality football? Until then, Thursday night college football is the “Seinfeld” to the NFL’s “Veronica’s Closet”.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange can clinch bowl eligibility Saturday when NC State comes to the Carrier Dome.  Let that sink in…three of the last four times SU has gone bowling they’ve had to win their final regular season game to do so.  To lock up that Pinstripe Bowl berth in October?  A dream come true.  While the 22nd ranked Wolfpack were unbeaten entering last Saturday’s showdown with then-#3 Clemson, it should be mentioned that they lost 41-7 and their unbeaten start was aided by having their game against West Virginia cancelled due to Hurricane Florence.  This week there’s been talk that redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito could start instead of senior Eric Dungey– one simply hopes we can hang on to what we’ve got.

 

Thursday Night-

Virginia Tech (4-2, 3-0 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (3-4, 1-3), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN).  The Hokies may be 19-8 on this evening during the regular season this century, but they’re just 3-3 at home over the last ten seasons.  The Yellowjackets bring their highly-touted option offense to Blacksburg, one that leads the ACC with 352 yards per game (and 6.2 yards per carry).  There’s something to be said about getting extra time to prepare for Paul Johnson’s offense:  since 2009 Virginia Tech is 0-4 against Georgia Tech on Saturdays but 5-0 on Thursday nights (with the previous weekend off, meaning they’ve had almost two weeks to focus on the option offense).  The other game?  A 20-17 season-opening victory where they had the entire month of August to gameplan for the Yellowjackets.  Hokies use the extra prep time to their advantage in a 32-21 win.

 

Saturday-

Virginia (5-2, 3-1 ACC) vs. North Carolina (1-5, 1-3), 12:20 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers can clinch bowl eligibility for a second straight season, something that hasn’t happened since the high point of the Al Groh era when Marques Hagans was the ultimate dual-threat quarterback.  Fast-forward 13 years as Bryce Perkins is destroying opponents with his arm and legs…and the Tar Heels have had issues all fall stopping the run and the pass.  What’s worse, they’re mistake-prone offense (-8 in turnover margin ranks last in the ACC and 126th overall in FBS) plays right into the hands of a Cavaliers defense that is much better than expected (3rd overall in the ACC, 4th against the pass and 5th against the run).  Kippy & Buffy would be more than happy to tell you that the 2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot also exceeds expectations, “underscored by polished tannins, the juiciness of the entry evolves into a lush, silky texture that carries the flavors to a long, generous finish marked by notes of freshly ground coffee beans with a splash of ripe, red cherry.”   Cavaliers make their splash into the bowl eligibility pool with a 27-13 victory.

 

Maryland (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) vs. Illinois (3-4, 1-3), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).  How is this game not being played at noon?  This feels like Rutgers II:  the Sequel.  The Terps attempt to bounce back from a tough road loss against a ranked foe while facing an offensively challenged squad.  While the Fighting Illini boast runningback Reggie Corbin (Upper Marlboro, MD) who averages 7.9 yards per carry, their defense ranks either last (yards allowed and passing efficiency) or second to last (points, passing and rushing yards given up) in the league.  A lot of focus will be on Terps linebacker Tre Watson:  the graduate transfer played four years for the Illini and has been the lynchpin for a Terps defense that has more than held its own this fall.  Watson just happens to lead the Big Ten with 75 tackles and is tied for the conference lead with four interceptions.  Elementary…Terrapins triumph, 38-14.

 

Navy (2-5) vs. #3 Notre Dame (7-0), 8 p.m. (CBS).  What sort of year has this been for coach Ken Niumatalo’s team?  This is technically a home game, but one that will take the Mids over 2,600 miles away from Annapolis.  Not ideal in any circumstance, but when you’ve lost four straight and have been unable to allow fewer than 21 points all season taking on a juggernaut like the Fighting Irish might not be ideal.  Could Notre Dame overlook the Mids?  Not likely, as they’ve lost four of the last eleven in the series- with two of their wins by seven points or fewer.   Their defense  also has two weeks to prepare for Navy’s option offense.  Midshipmen meet their maker in a 45-12 loss.

Georgetown falls to Colgate, Howard handles South Carolina State, James Madison gets by Stony Brook, William & Mary falls to Rhode Island, Towson tops Delaware.

Last Week: 5-2. 

Overall: 43-22.

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Miami and Notre Dame.  The series originally began as a way to give the Fighting Irish fans a warm-weather November destination on the odd-numbered years when they weren’t visiting USC.  And then to everyone’s surprise, the intersectional rivalry heated up in the 1980’s with “Catholics vs Convicts” T-shirts, Jimmy Johnson running up the score and the two schools swapping national title runs. From 1987 to 1990 the two schools went a combined 85-12, each playing in New Year’s Day bowl games every season.  And then–they stopped playing.  While the Lou Holtz era is a distant memory and the Hurricanes have dealt with multiple crippling probations since the 80’s, this matchup still raises one’s eyebrows.  Notre Dame fans still look at Miami as obnoxious “new money”, while the Hurricane faithful view the Fighting Irish as “holier than thou” front-runners.  Add into the equation that there are a lot of people who hate both schools for precisely those reasons, and you have two teams that need to play more often.  Now that the Irish are a semi-member (actually a full member in every sport but the one you’d want them to be) of the ACC, this will happen a lot more often.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange need to win two of their final three games to have any hope at reaching the Pinstripe Bowl.  The good news is that neither Wake Forest, Louisville nor Boston College have winning conference records.  Today they take on a Demon Deacons team that’s dropped four of five and has allowed an average of 39 points over its last three games.  Eric Dungey’s health will be a question.  Hopefully the team will move beyond a pair of one-possession losses in the Sunshine state that would have been sweet upsets.

 

#17 Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3), 12:20 p.m. (ACC Network).  What is it with this new “12:20” window?  Can’t the ACC Network begin its early games at noon like the rest of us?  If the Big Ten can start games at 11 a.m. local time in Madison and Minneapolis, what’s the delay?  Makes me yearn for the good old days on Jefferson-Pilot.  Despite last week’s loss to unbeaten Miami, the Hokies defense leads the conference against the run and overall while allowing the fewest points per game.  The Yellowjackets lead the ACC in rushing offense and commit the fewest penalties in the league, but have trouble rushing the passer (13th in the league) and are 109th nationally in turnover margin.  Sounds like Annapolis South.  Hokies handle things, 27-13.

 

Maryland (4-5, 2-4 Big Ten) vs #21 Michigan (7-2, 4-2), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).  Terps quarterback Max Bortenschlager may have a concussion or a shoulder injury–when asked which it was coach DJ Durkin said, “it was a third down- he was trying to get the first down and took a pretty good hit right there” and “I think he was just competing trying to get the first down-he took a hit there”.  So much for clarity.  If Max can’t go, walk-on Ryan Brand will be the fourth starting quarterback of the 2017 season…and he’ll face a Wolverine defense whose 32 sacks lead the Big Ten.  Michigan runningback Karan Higdon has rushed for 200 yards twice in league play…bad news for a Terps defense that allows the most yards and points in the conference:  Terrapins tumble, 31-16.

 

Navy (5-3, 3-3 AAC) vs SMU (6-3, 3-2), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).  The Midshipmen are free-falling after three straight conference losses.  They’ve gone from the “can they contend for a West Division title?” to the “they’re going to qualify for a bowl, right?” conversation thanks to a turnover-prone offense and a soft pass rush.  The Pony Express isn’t walking through that door for the Mustangs, but they do boast the AAC’s leading receiver in Trey Quinn (90 catches for 921 yards and 7 TD).  They’re also more of a match defensively for the option offense, lead the AAC in red zone defense and own a +12 turnover margin.  Midshipmen fall, 31-24.

 

Virginia (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at Louisville (5-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).  Expect plenty of points as the Cardinals lead the conference in passing, total yardage and scoring.  They’re also near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories and have coughed up 28 or more points in four straight games.  Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have reverted to last fall’s “break but don’t bend” defense that coughed up big plays, allowing 30+ points the last three Saturdays.  Defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson might not be on track to claim another statue, but the junior is completing passes at a higher rate and gaining more yards per carry this fall.  UVa is also coming off its sixth win of the year, and might just be exhaling now that they’ve clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.  Kippy & Buffy plan on exhaling at the tailgate with a bottle of Carlisle Winery 2011 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel:  “drop-dead gorgeous aromas of cherry, herbs, and spice box spill from the glass. Full bodied with an explosion of red cherry fruit. Suave tannins build through the long finish.”  Unfortunately one does not see a happy finish at Papa John’s Stadium.  Cavaliers come up short, 43-31.

 

Howard beats Norfolk State, Georgetown falls at Bucknell, Towson tops William & Mary, James Madison tops Richmond.

Last Week: 5-4.

Overall: 58-21.

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If you picked up a schedule at the beginning of the season, no doubt you read a handful of kickoff times and a slew of “TBA” or “TBD”.  For instance, we didn’t know Maryland’s kickoff time with Rutgers until 12 days before the game (we also learned it wouldn’t be where they originally scheduled the game, but that’s another matter).  Virginia Tech-Miami?  Not until this past Sunday.  While I understand the networks want to have the top matchups on in front of the largest possible audiences, don’t we kind of realize that Maryland-Indiana might not be a ready-for-primetime game?  Even the NFL during its flex scheduling already has game-times in place.  College hoops is a lot more random and their tipoff times for the most part are set in stone (with the exception of the final weekend).  I’m sure the uncertainty of the kickoff time can’t help with attendance at some stadiums.  One isn’t saying that the schedule should be locked in from day one…but it would be nice if the networks and conferences would exercise a little common sense and at least set the kickoff times.  And then infuriate us by changing them 12 days out.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange face Florida State two weeks after losing at Miami.  As November begins SU needs two wins to keep it’s Pinstripe Bowl banner hopes alive–and they face the 2-5 Seminoles who could very well wake up before playing Wake Forest (5-3 after a 4-0 start), Louisville (allowing 39 points per conference game) and Boston College (okay, the Eagles are red hot with three straight wins).  I remember one year the Orange went to Tallahassee and scored first against the #1 Seminoles…only to see FSU put 40 straight points on the board.  For the record the Orange scored last in that 40-14 loss as well.*Sadly, memories fade:  it was 46-14 and SU led 14-7.

 

Virginia (5-3, 2-2 ACC) vs Georgia Tech (4-3, 2-2), 3 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers make their third attempt at reaching six wins and the bowl eligibility that comes with it.  Losses to Boston College and Pitt have tempered the Scott Stadium faithful, and this week they’ll have to deal with the fourth best running game (347.9 yards per game) in the country.  If there’s one thing UVa doesn’t do well it’s contain the run (10th in the ACC).  Tech is also somewhat soft against the pass.  Can Kurt Benkert regain his September form (66% completion rate with a 10-to-1 TD to INT ratio) after an underwhelming October (55% and 7-to-4)?  Kippy & Buffy return home to tailgate with another wine from the Commonwealth, a 2014 King Family Vineyards Petit Verdot.  “On the nose, dark notes of tar, licorice, and blueberry are accented with aromas of mushroom, leather, and eucalyptus”.  Mushroom and leather are a rare tandem, but with Stilton Blue on Wheat Thins it works somehow.  Cavaliers come up short, 36-20.

 

Maryland (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) at Rutgers (3-5, 2-3), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network).  How long will the Terps and Scarlet Knights be the “new kids in town” of the Big Ten?   Rutgers is fresh from coughing up 334 yards rushing to Michigan.  Now I know why Maryland runningbacks Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison have been salivating all week.  This game was originally supposed to take place at Yankee Stadium, but the Yanks playoff run moved the venue back to Piscataway.  Whatever happened to the sanctity that was the Pinstripe Bowl?  You just cheapen it by having random regular season games in the Bronx.  Terrapins Triumph, 31-17.

 

#13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at #9 Miami (7-0, 4-0), 8 p.m. (ABC).  Every year I prepare my “Hurricane Downgrade” column…because for the last decade the U has followed up solid Septembers with awful Octobers (although in 2012 and 2013 they waited until November to implode).  This year’s edition played four straight one-possession games and prevailed each time, while the Hokies have been in just one game decided by eight points or fewer (and that was opening weekend against West Virginia).   If Miami has an achilles heel it’s moving the chains on third down (second worst in the ACC at 30.7%)–and the Hokies are second best in the league at getting off of the field.  Hokies hold on, 20-16. 

Howard falls at Florida A&M, Georgetown loses to Lafayette,  Richmond is victorious at Villanova, William & Mary slips to New Hampshire, Towson tumbles to Elon, James Madison mauls Rhode Island.

 

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 53-17.